Am I liable if a beater or Gun is injured on my shoot?

PUBLISHED: 14:01 11 February 2021

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Nick Ridley Photography

I run a shoot - how can I avoid a claim if a beater or Gun gets injured? Is a disclaimer of liability enough? Our legal expert answers

Q

I have organised a shoot on my farm. How do I avoid any potential claim if any of the guns or beaters are injured? If I get all attendees to sign off on a disclaimer of liability, will that be sufficient?

TOM ESLER replies: While many events require participants to sign disclaimers, which include a provision that seems to state that the participant has waived any rights or claims against the event organiser, it is not possible to waive liability for claims in respect of death or personal injury arising out of negligence. An event may have participants sign such a disclaimer as a condition of participation, but this doesn’t prevent a claimant bringing an action for personal injury or death.

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In the unfortunate event of an incident, you should ensure that you have appropriate levels of insurance in place – including public liability and employers’ liability. Insurers tend to treat beaters as employees.

Most rural sports organisations, such as BASC or Countryside Alliance, can provide advice and potentially some level of insurance cover to their members. You should check the extent of any such insurance attached to those memberships to see if it covers or could be extended to cover your event. You should also check your own household or farm insurance for the levels of cover provided there and, if appropriate, speak to your insurance company about taking out specific cover or extending your current cover for your event.

Finally, it is very important that you, as the organiser, set out clear and specific health and safety rules for the shoot itself. While the vast majority of shooters exercise good gun discipline, it is important that they are made fully aware of your safety rules, both to protect themselves and other participants at the shoot.

As the organiser or landowner, you should undertake and record a risk assessment to address all potential areas of risk over which you have some control. This may include ensuring that: shooting only occurs from allocated pegs; guns are broken when they’re not being used for shooting; and guns are not left unattended.

Obviously, if you can demonstrate that you have not been negligent in your organisation or conduct of the shoot, you will have a better prospect of defending any claim. Regardless of this, you should ensure you have adequate insurance in place as it is an unfortunate reality that other accidents or accidental damage can always happen.

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